Where’s Kashmir in the new order?

GLOBAL security and the world order are in the process of being re-jigged. The 2012 Chicago summit is one reflection and indication of this.

America’s and Nato’s scheduled exit from Afghanistan which forms the grist and mill of the Chicago summit is most likely to herald a new global security situation.

‘Taliban’ may be taken on board and negotiated with, a semblance of normalcy and a political solution in accord with American preferences be implemented, Pakistan be dealt with and then an exit made.

Overlaying this security situation and condition are the contours of a world order in which unipolarity is gradually giving in to a somewhat ‘loose multipolarity’ wherein the US appears to be viewing the rise of some emerging powers like India favourably and is consequently reviewing its alliance systems.

Concomitantly, the European Union is still mired in a structural morass and unable to form and come up with a coherent foreign policy posture. And, collectively, the West, led by the US, coming out of the global economic crisis of 2008, appears to be consolidating itself. China, in the meantime, is playing the international game of politics astutely and focusing on what it calls a ‘peaceful rise’.

What is glaringly absent and missing from this portrait of international politics and global security is the fate of peoples and communities which continue to languish in a political, economic and cultural morass.

These putative political communities titillated and inspired by the principle of self-determination wallow in a grey one wherein their aspirations continue to be unmet. The reasons for this morass are the classic ones: state obstructionism, arrogance, historical amnesia, myopia and power politics.

The political community that I have in mind and of which I am a representative is that of Kashmir and the Kashmiris — a people caught in a conflict that now has been comprehensively frozen in the echelons of power.

The fate of Kashmir and the Kashmiris appears, for all intents and purposes, to have been stuck in the great game of international and power politics.

This has two dimensions: one, on the level of the nation state against which the Kashmiris raised their collective will and voice against India. The other is the international legal-power political dimension.

The former, a condition where the Indian state feels complacent about Kashmiri, suggests that the state, for some bizarre reason, feels that it has ‘won’ in Kashmir.

This sense of victory stems from military might and the attendant forces of attrition where the Indian state, resting on its laurels, feels that it has Kashmir in its kitty.

This reflects arrogance and historical amnesia and myopia. History suggests that the will of the people may be somewhat dulled by state power but can never be controlled and curbed. It will raise its head, time and again, under different guises.

Complementing this aspect is the great game of power politics where a reshuffling of alliances and power is taking place. In this great game, conflicts like the Kashmiri conflict, inspired by the concept of self-determination, are seen as a mere inconvenience — something to be brushed under the carpet.

This approach again suggests and reflects historical myopia and amnesia. Modern history is the history of nationalism and the struggle of people’s aspirations. Power politics has never really curbed this natural human desire and instinct and taking recourse to history again, one can cite innumerable examples of frozen conflicts reviving and recidivism as being the name of the game.

Whether it is the Treaty of Versailles or the frozen conflicts on the periphery of Europe where artificial borders were foisted upon the people, the story is the same: under propitious historical conditions, the desire for self-determination and justice animated the people and reared its head time and again.

The same can be said to be the case in Kashmir. State power which controlled and contained the insurgency is held to be the medicine for the people’s quest for self-determination. And power politics, at the international level, is ignoring this quest and desire. What more can be said about the politics of short-term historical myopia and amnesia?

It is time that the international community as well as sober opinion in India heeded the lessons of history. The transition of the conflict in Kashmir from a violent one to a peaceful one should not be taken as the end of the conflict in Kashmir.

The conflict has not died: it is alive, at least in the recesses of the Kashmiri collective unconscious. Power and power politics will do nothing to alleviate this conflict. Kashmir may not be as important to global security as Afghanistan or Pakistan. This does not mean that a blind-eyed approach be adopted towards it.

A sincere approach by all stakeholders — India, Pakistan, the international community and above all the Kashmiris — is the need of the hour. Let the Indian state and the international community renew their interest in the Kashmiris and let the politics of imagination be accorded primacy over sterile politics.

Tailpiece: Whatever the exigencies and reasons for talking to the Taliban, the gesture and the approach has implications and consequences for Kashmir and the Kashmiris. The natural conclusion and implication that Kashmiris will draw from this is that violence pays.

It is only violence that gets the attention of policymakers and makes them come to the negotiating table. The new generations of Kashmiris will then draw this lesson and may take to the gun as a means of protest to make themselves heard.

It is this potential scenario that policymakers, the international community and all stakeholders should try and pre-empt. The time for this is now.